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September 6, 2011

By Nathalie Thirlwall

On August 27th, some 100 people gathered at the Ottawa Bahá'í Centre for an evening of reflection and inspiration aimed at honouring and praying for the safety of the seven Bahá’í leaders imprisoned in Iran for their faith. The event featured the art of Rosita Niknafs and the music of Montreal-based group The Hidden Words.

The program presented a balance between uplifting art and more sober reflection, with creativity woven into visual and musical presentations. The host began by saying, “The true nature of the human soul is endowed with love and the desire to create is one expression of that love.” The focus of the evening was an exhibition called ‘Seven Deadly Sins,’ montages created by Rosita Niknafs highlighting the plight of the former Yaran (Friends of Iran), who served the basic needs of the Bahá'í community there until their sudden and arbitrary arrest more than three years ago.

The artist spoke about the inspiration of her work as she viewed the lives of these individuals, who seemed to be lifted up out of a life of ordinariness into a more rarefied condition as they continue to endure – with steadfastness, nobility, peacefulness and refined dignity – the 20 year sentence laid upon them. She challenged the audience to honour their lives by emulating their qualities of character, service to others, and sacrifice for the common good.

A representative of the Baha'i Community of Canada’s Office of Governmental Relations also provided background to the situation of the Bahá'ís in Iran. He spoke about the general deterioration of the human rights situation in Iran, which has had dire consequences for many oppressed groups. Among them are the Bahá'ís, the country’s largest religious minority, which has seen an intensification of persecution over the past number of years. This has included an increasing rate of arbitrary arrests and recent attacks on the Bahá'í Institute for Higher Education – an initiative of the Bahá'í community to provide advanced education in an informal setting to youth excluded from universities by state policy. The actions of the Government of Canada to continually raise such human rights issues were praised, and broader social action was urged to raise voices in solidarity with the Bahá'ís in Iran.

The evening included the work of another artist, Del Carry who composed music that formed the backdrop to his slide presentation. After an intermission, which included light refreshments and an opportunity to view the works and speak to the artists, the musical group called “Hidden Words” performed lyrical and upbeat music composed by Alden Penner.
Religious Persecution

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